Tonight’s post on the central issue of finance in family law, the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit, was written by Marietta Divorce Attorney, Alyssa Blanchard.
In any action involving child support, alimony, attorney’s fees or equitable division of property, you are required to file with the court a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. Ga. Unif. Super. Ct. 24.2. A financial Affidavit is a document that summarizes your monthly income and expenses. This document is an important tool in resolving financial issues in domestic cases and should be completed in its entirety and as accurately as possible.
The Financial Affidavit can be both a sword and shield. How can it be a shield? Consider this example: you are in the middle of a divorce action and your spouse is seeking alimony. When awarding alimony, the court takes into consideration the needs of the party seeking alimony and the ability of the other party to pay. Your attorney can use your Financial Affidavit to show both your income and your monthly expenses to support the argument of what are capable or incapable of affording to pay.
How can the Financial Affidavit be a sword? The Opposing Counsel will use your Financial Affidavit as a tool for cross examination. For example, if your spouse is seeking $1,000 per month in alimony and you argue that you cannot afford to pay yet your Financial Affidavit shows that you spend $500 a month on entertainment and set aside another $500 a month for vacations, opposing counsel will argue that you have the money to burn.
These are just examples, but as you can see, it is not only important that you complete your Financial Affidavit but you must also take your time in estimating your monthly figures.
Understandably, some of your monthly bills may change from month to month or depend on the time of year. For example, your electricity bill may be much higher in the winter than the summer. That’s ok. Use your best estimate and try to get as close to an average monthly cost when considering the entire year. When you are averaging your income, use your most recent paystubs and/or tax returns. For bank account balances and debts/payments to creditors look at your account for the balance as of the date you are completing the affidavit. The Financial Affidavit requires you to list your assets. For 401k/retirement accounts look at your most recent statement. If you have real property, list the value and your mortgage balance. There is a lot of information required in this seven to eight page document.
Keep in mind that this is an affidavit which is a sworn statement. You will be required to sign that affidavit before a notary. By doing so you are stating that the information included is an accurate reflection of your current financial status. If you have any questions when filling out your Financial Affidavit, discuss it with your attorney.
Your Financial Affidavit will be filed with the Clerk and if you have a hearing your attorney will use it as an exhibit. If anything changes with your monthly figures, you can always amend your affidavit and file the amended affidavit with the court.
Your Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is your financial statement to the court. It is how finance starts. It can be a valuable shield for you and sword for the opposing side. Either way it is a necessary and important step in any case for which it is required. Pay attention to it. It is important to you!